Thursday, November 5, 2009

Nats Succeeded Where Phillies Phailed Horriphically

While we all wait for the insufferable deluge of how the Yankees “christened” their new stadium or, even worse and somehow more hacky, are in “27th heaven”, given the numeric value of their most recent title, let’s us DC fans all revel in one thing positive that came out of this most wretched World Series match-up: the Nats fared better in the new, now-holy Yankee Stadium during the regular season (as vast, vast underdogs) than these Phillies (as the defending champs) fared during the Series.

Yes, remember back in June when the Nationals took two out of three games at this new "shrine" to baseball from the mighty Yankees? That was pretty great, especially given the 3-0 shutout in the series finale, facilitated by six-plus stellar innings from Craig Stammen. The Phillies of November proved far meeker than the Nationals of June, managing to take but one of three games in this same blessed haven en route to dashing all hopes of any manner of “dynasty” in Philly.

So we’ll have to choke on a few stories about the Yankees’ return to “prominence”, and probably have to deal with a few anecdotes about some perceived “adversity” they faced somewhere along the line, with some clap-trap about the “ghosts” of the old Yankee Stadium permeating the new thrown in for good measure, but whilst we gag on that pablum, let’s remember that at least in some regard, the Nationals triumphed where the Phillies could not.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mets Worse Than Nats in the Eyes of History

Maybe you’re a little down about the constant negative/hacky Redskins-related commentary these days, or the latest lame Harlan-wrought snippy shot at the burgeoning Nationals, or the squalid lack of DCO posts since the tragic mid-July termination of our mentor and inspiration. Well, if you’re looking for something to bridge the gap betwixt unequivocally excellent and ‘tism-evoking Caps’ and Wizards’ camps and the start of the NHL/NBA seasons, look no further than tonight’s developments in the Nats vs. Mets contest.

With Justin Maxwell’s gently arcing, "evidently” line drive grand slam into the left field seats went yet another Mets’ September heartache at the hands of the “lowly” Nationals. Whether it’s crushing hopes of a division title, contributing to an epic collapse, or just piling on to an historic under-achievement, it just isn’t quite September without the Nationals laying some kind of embarrassment on the vainly grasping-for-greatness Mets of the last half decade and more.

It is SO worth mentioning that Maxwell’s slam also propelled the Mets into the wondrous category of “Worse Than The 2007 Washington Nationals”. As this blog so eloquently and gleefully declared in those hot, humid, halcyon days of two years ago, the Acta-led Nats of yore bucked each and every prediction of historical awfulness and surged to a record of 71-91, far short of the gloomy predictions, presented by hack after hack, of 120+ losses.

With Maxwell’s full-count, two-out heroics, the Mets and their epically swollen $143 million or whatever payroll earned their 92nd loss. While the calendar may save the Mets from 100 losses, ignominy knows no such Gregorian-enforced leniency. The 2009 Mets are now worse than the team widely predicted to be the worst baseball team of all time, at the hands of the very such squad predicted to achieve that distinction. Oh the irony/shame!

Manny would be/probably is proud.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Manuel Elias Acta
November 14, 2006 - July 13, 2009

This truly is one of the darkest days since this blog’s inception two-plus years ago. The Master, one of our key inspirations and mentors (two fleeting encounters count as mentorship), Man-Act, Chairmanny, is no more.

His philosophy was a guiding principle of this blog, from the first interview I heard him give on the radio, in which he was asked what he would bring to the team. “Positive energy” he replied with no hesitation. It’s what the Nats needed. While we loved Frank and mourned his passing from the manager’s perch, his old-fashioned brand of crusty, occasionally hard-ass (and, to be fair, occasional tear-shedding at the mid-inning pulling of a catcher) style might have better fit an underachieving fully built veteran squad. Occasional lover of ‘tism Mike Wise recently opined that Frank deserved better in his dismissal from DC, and had a point. Maybe he can write the same about Manny. As most everyone admits, the Nats growing pains are far too great at the moment to be cured by the firing of a manager, or even by the (wise) ditching of Joel Hanrahan and Jesue Colome.

And so, in fond, fond remembrance of Acta and his ‘tism-soaked tenure in DC, including that idyllic summer of ’07 with its resultant single Manager of the Year vote, we present some of our fondest Manny Moments as chronicled in this blog, in no particular order:

September 23, 2007

Final Nats home game of the season, and final Nats’ game ever at RFK (my first wedding anniversary as well). Closing out the home portion of the season in which his team bucked all predictions of the historical awfulness that would befall them, ChairManny addresses the crowd afterwards, stating confidently, “I am positive and optimistic [about this team].”

DCO post from that day

April 13, 2007

Ah, the early days of the blog, when posts flowed as easily as an encouraging word from Manny’s mouth to the ears of a young team told by all others they were en route to 125 losses. On this Friday in April, we inaugurated a weekly award, the Manny Acta Optimist of the Week (MAO of the Week, a moniker which begat one of Bobtimist Prime’s most clever posts/logos), given each Friday to the figure in Washington sports we felt most personified Manny’s spirit of positivity for the preceding week. The first winner was then-hitting-coach Mitchell Page, who, in the face of daunting statistical evidence to the contrary, expressed complete faith in the abilities of the Nats’ offense, and predicted their bats would yet come alive. Two years and many hitters later, he is almost vindicated.

Manny himself would go on to capture several of these awards in the time when we still gave them out, a testament to how often he alone was the voice of ‘tism in this town (oh, and our blog too).

DCO post from that day

June 13, 2007

Still just a little over two months into his first major league season as manager, Manny really started to hit his stride on this night against the Baltimore Orioles. Game 2 of what would be a stunning Nats’ series sweep at Camden Yards (a series win that would put the cost-cutting, rebuilding Nationals at the same record as the heavy-spending, maybe kind of trying to win now Orioles) went to 11 innings. In the top of the 11th, struggling hitter and not-long-for-a-Nats-uniform Felipe Lopez, 0-5 thus far that night, got into a little tiff at home plate over balls and strikes. Manny, knowing the consequences of his thinned bench losing even this light hitting infielder, strode confidently to the batter’s box and talked Felipe down, keeping what would have been an imminent ejection at bay and re-focusing his second baseman with a little Spanish pep talk.

Mere moments later, Lopez’s base-clearing triple provided the eventual 9-6 winning margin (remember when a relief pitcher could hold down a late- or extra-inning lead like that?). ‘Tism triumphs again.

DCO post from that day

June 6, 2007

The first meeting of a member of this blog and one of its prime sources of inspiration. Mrs. DCO and I were fortunate enough to briefly chat with the Master prior to our being ushered away from the seats near the dugout and back to our plebian perches. It was a short conversation, but one that featured optimism as its primary subject. At the very mention of the word, Manny’s demeanor switched from the typical fan meet-and-greet to that of Master of Philosophy, as he expounded on the need to live a life rooted in optimism, and to eschew the easy but ultimately unrewarding path of the pessimist.

The autographed ball from that night sits above my right shoulder as I type this, and will remind me of the first time I met this future Manager of the Year and World Series champion.

DCO post from that day

May 30, 2007

An interesting day, as it followed a humbling 10-0 Nats’ loss at the hands of the Dodgers and saw the team similarly fall 5-0 that night. But in the big picture, this day came
as the Nats were wrapping up a 13-7 run in May after the oft-referenced 9-25 start that had the wolves circling, salivating, howling, etc. Bobtimist’s post from that morning will no doubt someday be credited as being the first prescient reference to Manny as the greatest manager in the history of baseball.

This was the day, at the end of almost three weeks of solid, winning Nats baseball, that we felt our seldom-credited guarantee of a non-100-loss season from May 9 might not have been a product of over-zealous homerism, but might have been steeped in something else. Yeah, optimism. Almost tangible in those days.

DCO post from that day


My own personal witness to the power Manny had in that blissful summer (undocumented in DCO as far as I know) came late in a game vs. Florida that May. It was towards the end of what were to be two extended rain delays, and only a few hundred fans remained at RFK, most of whom had made their way to the seats near the field. I was sitting not far down the first base line and suddenly a dozen or so fans behind home plate erupted into a boisterous standing ovation. There was the Master, walking past, quickly acknowledging the cheer with an “I’m not worthy”-type bow in return.

We may visit some more Manny Memories in the coming days, even as we (painfully) move on and hope that Jim Riggleman can be Bruce Boudreau to Manny’s Glen Hanlon (yet again drawing parallels between the Caps and Nats. When will it end? The answer is never).

In the end he’s the sacrifice that a 26-61 record demanded. It’s still depressing to see him go, especially feeling as strongly as we do that he will land elsewhere and that his unquenchable positivity will lead someone else to glory. In a way it's as hard to read about this dismissal as it was to read about that whole Caps Game 7 thing vs. Pittsburgh. But, as with that sordid affair, we can get through this.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Possibility for a Different Type of Managerial Discussion

The prevailing attitude out there indicates that this Nats’ series against the Yankees will determine the fate of Manny Acta’s future in Washington. Maybe it does. But maybe, maybe, the absolute reverse could be true. What if this series somehow plays into the future that onetime Nats spurner Joe Girardi has in New York? Imagine a scenario in which the Nationals take 2 of 3 from the Yankees, or maybe even just take one game, perhaps the first one. What about, dare we say it???, a sweep. The maniacal screams of the New York Post, et al, for the immediate dismissal of Girardi would know no limit.

Living in the NY area and having direct access to the home of sensationalistic sports-related overreaction (not to mention some of the most spectacularly ludicrous trade theories you’ll ever hear) that is WFAN radio, I can attest to the thin ice some perceive Joe Girardi to be on, and it seemed to get thinner after the most recent sweep at the hands of the Red Sox, adding to that 0-whatever record New York now has this season against Boston. Who knows, if Luis Castillo catches a routine popup and the Mets take 2 of 3 in the increasingly watered-down Subway Series, maybe a few more calls for Girardi’s dismissal could have surfaced (then again, if Nick Johnson catches a routine popup in Tampa, maybe there are a few less for Manny’s).

It could happen. Remember earlier this spring, when a similar DC-NY table-turning went down involving a couple of goaltenders? As the story in that series shifted from Lundqvist to Varlamov, perhaps now a different kind of story could shift from Acta to Girardi (we do love any opportunity for a Caps/Nats parallel). If it does, be sure to tell all your friends where you read it first. Then call WFAN and continue to tell them the Mets should “pick up” Adam Dunn.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Nats Fans: Less Flappable Than Nats Beat Writers

When Bobtimist posted a link on his Twitter feed this morning pointing to a poll in the Nationals Journal, I felt an almost immediate sense of familiarity.

The subject matter of the poll, of course, was whether the firing of the Master of 'Tism himself, Manny Acta, increasingly rumored to be imminent, would be warranted right now. A steady 55-56% of Nats fans have been maintaining that such a dismissal is, at the very least, ill-timed. It's worth noting the wording of the survey question: "Is it the right time to fire Manny Acta?", perhaps indicating that the questioner has already determined the Master must go, and just wonders when the right time is to drop the ax.

This survey brought to mind another such polling of the mindset of Nats fans, one undertaken just last summer, when things were looking similarly bleak for the franchise. The tide of optimism was strong then, even as the Nationals limped towards that 100 loss plateau they had so valiantly avoided a year prior. Back then, as now, a majority of the fanbase expressed confidence in Manny, 4/5 going so far as to say he would one day lead the franchise to a winning record. Back then, as now, Nats fans showed how strongly they ultimately believe in this team and remain hopeful in its future, in stark contrast to the continual snark, gloom, and overall negativism found in the pages of Nationals Journal and elsewhere.

There is, of course, that voice out there that is (usually) optimistic in the form of our buddy Boz, who so eloquently stated the dignity with which Manny still carries himself, and the support he still enjoys amongst his players. This is not some team implosion, poisonous locker room needing to be purged type situation (a situation, incidentally, that has been prophesied by naysayers whenever an alleged "troublemaker" or "cancer" with a name like Young or Dukes has been signed). It's just another struggling chapter in a re-building ballclub, one made all the more difficult with all that Bowden stuff that went down, and with all this young pitching trying to find its footing.

So, no, the time is not right to fire ChairManny, and we shouldn't assume such an action is or should be imminent. He's been the perfect character guy to keep a positive attitude through all this painful-if-necessary losing, and deserves to see things through to their ultimate, successful, winning conclusion. The fans seem to get that.

Friday, June 12, 2009

We Can (and will, and must) Get Through This

It’s been a while. Almost a month, actually. The last post on DCO to this point was before a bitterly disappointing Capitals’ Game 7 vs. the Penguins. That ended not quite as we’d hoped, but that game’s repercussions are perhaps as nothing compared to the Game 7 that went down tonight, a Game 7 that will cause we DC fans such pain as perhaps cannot even be fortold yet this early into the crisis.

So, this is bad. Maybe not Tony-Romo-with-a-Lombardi-Trophy bad, but very, very close. We’re in for a dark summer and early fall, my friends, months of gushing talk of “destiny fulfilled” by “the next one”, of “adversity overcome” by the same, of the audacity of free agent Marian Hossa to spurn a young hockey diety to play in Detroit, etc. Further, the next hockey season may well be difficult as any accomplishment by Alex Ovechkin or the Caps will find some beer-swilling yinser from Wheeling or Charleston, or maybe even on occasion Pittsburgh proper, bloviating about “the debate being over” as to who is the more superior player for all time, Sid or Ovie. This dark cloud may even hang over another probable trophy windfall by Ovie at the upcoming NHL awards ceremony, as the above-mentioned cretins will remind us of the one, perhaps two, honors not yet on his resume.

But it is that word, “yet”, that gives us hope, and let’s cling to it even at the onset of this dark night. The well-positioned Caps, not quite as lucky in the obtaining of #1 and #2 picks as these (gag) champion Penguins but close to their level nonetheless, will, soon, bring the discussion/debate back to even ground. They will do this, of course, with a Cup of their own. Perhaps a couple. We at DCO believe this, partially because we have to, but mostly because we really, really do. This tiresome-as-it-is “Ovechkin vs. Crosby” debate is laughingly far from over, being so early in the careers of both, and with each respective team only now rising to elite levels after years of last-place finishes and at least one near-move to Kansas City (looking back now, how sweet would that have been?). Who knows, maybe someday Alex will even rise enough to not be so arbitrarily and automatically attached to the horrible beard-grower in southwestern PA. A few 70-goal seasons should do it.

The Hershey Bears won yet another Calder Cup tonight, so that should blunt this crushing blow to all that is good and not ruined by excessive fawning in the world. All that talented AHL goodness flowing through DC and resulting in championships in the coming years will blunt it further, until June 12, 2009, will be remembered as just another goofy sky-diving birthday for an aging ex-president and not for the atrocity that occurred in Detroit, and the gushy coronation that ensued.

It will take some time, and it may be painful, but we will get past this.

Now how about those Nats?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Of Demons and Darlings

It’s been almost month since the Caps were so perfectly poised to bury one of those exhaustively referenced playoff demons. That particular hell-spawn was the memory of 2-0 and 3-1 series leads lost (the 2-0 specifically being the winning of two opening road games), typically while being the underdog. The beating of the underdog Rangers, who had taken those two very series lead against the higher-seeded, mostly favored Caps, went a long way to washing the vile tastes of 1995, 1996, and 2003 from our mouths (amongst others).

In a season seemingly dead-set on giving the franchise a fresh start in its post-season history, it was perhaps only appropriate that the one-time consensus Eastern Conference Champion New Jersey Devils would so gloriously choke away a lead with just over a minute left in Game 7 to give the Caps a second round date with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The “coincidence” of this event happening just moments after sageful Sergei Fedorov had buried the Rangers in the Caps own Game 7 should not be ignored.

So yes, the Capitals can expunge another painful part of their past tonight by improving the franchise’s playoff record against the Pens to 2-6. Be ready to hear that record screamed incessantly by insecure Iron City drunkards should their vaunted squad be defeated. Nothing like ancient history to salve the wounds of the present.

A win tonight makes us forget silly things like OT penalty shot pucks skipping playfully around Joe Juneau’s stick and harmlessly into the waiting pads of Ken Wregget, buzz-killing 7-0 Game 1 defeats on home ice, wackily deflected OT goals, Petr Nedved, and, yes, seemingly commanding series leads lost.

There is even more at stake, however. The Caps can do the rest of the league and hockey fans outside of the Pittsburgh/West Virginia area a huge favor tonight in vanquishing those darling Penguins, that team never lacking for a pep talk from whatever hockey pundit feels a warmth in his bosom for Sidney Crosby on any given day.

It’s a chance for the Caps to rescue us all, at least for five months, from a world where any mildly irritating, NHL-decreed-destiny-defying setback for the Pens is characterized as “adversity” (also known as “losing a game” or “incurring a penalty” for any other team), which of course is eventually “overcome”, where any Pens’ minor success is lauded as “resiliency”, where another manifestation of Sid’s petulant, entitled-brat schtick in complaining about hat-trick hats is characterized as the Pens captain being ”ever the competitor”, where instances of trash-throwing on DC ice are met with disdain and instances of the same in Pittsburgh are ignored, where the true resiliency of a Caps' rookie goaltender is questioned even as his counterpart in black and gold allows one laughable goal after another, and where increasingly tired arguments (some admittedly presented here) of which fanbase/organization has more “class”, which team posesses more loyal, less-bandwagony fans, or which team boasts more whiners, fall almost unanimously in favor of the Penguins. It's the Caps on the short end of these arguments now, but a Pittsburgh victory and it will soon be the Bruins/Hurricanes or Ducks/Red Wings/Blackhawks/any team daring to stand in the way of Gary Bettman reverently handing Sid a trophy.

This is the monster the Caps can slay tonight, along with their oft-mentioned demons, and oft-mentioned (usually snarkily) ancient history with the Penguins, a history with which exactly zero current Capitals were involved in any way (regular resident of the healthy scratch list Michael Nylander doesn’t count). It's a chance for a fresh start for us all.

Beat the Penguins, save the (hockey) world.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Hope and Sanity From...

The Penguins seem to officially be darlings again, almost unanimously picked to advance past the speed-bump Capitals. Remember when the Pens were going to miss the playoffs, and we were all ready to be spared from having to hear Sidney Crosby and his enabler hockey pundits talk about “overcoming adversity” or “facing adversity”, perhaps the most over-used phrases (with “it is what it is” coming in a close second) in all of sport? Those were nice days, days in which we might have dreamed of the Pens merely being relegated to talk of moves to Kansas City, days in which they might have again been abandoned by their supposed non-fairweather fans, who are of course superior to the all-bandwagon crowd filling Verizon Center.

However, in all of the renewed christening of the golden boy and his golden team, there may be a voice of sanity in the unlikely mulleted form of Barry Melrose. We all remember Barry, right? He made a trip to Washington mere days before his 16-game tenure behind the Tampa Bay Lightning bench ended. Well, over at, amidst a summary of overwhelming predictions of a second-round Penguins’ triumph vs. the Capitals, Barry and Pierre LeBrun stand alone as the only prognosticators willing to vouch for at least the possibility of a Washington victory.

What’s the point, you might rightfully ask? Well, a look back at predictions for Round 1 of the playoffs will reveal Melrose as the only one out of 18 expert predictors (including a monkey, who, incidentally, likes the Caps’ chances) who forecast Anaheim to knock off presumed Cup finalist San Jose. So he predicted, so it came to pass (and note the Capitals vs. Capitals phenomenon amidst the Yahoo! experts).

Maybe this guy is on to something. Maybe he knows something the rest of the expert hockey-predicting world doesn’t. Maybe he realizes that just because a #2 seed took a game or two longer than expected to knock off a #7 seed which possessed one of the East’s best defenses (if one of the worst offenses) and a goalie with series-stealing capability (as we were many, many, many times told), it doesn’t necessarily mean they are doomed by the prospect of facing Brooks Orpik and M-A F.

So, thank you, Barry (and, to a lesser degree, Pierre, since you predicted it would take the full seven games for the Caps to advance and face the Hurricanes in a paradox-causing all-SE-Division Conference Finals), for not falling blindly into another premature coronation of the Penguins. Your prediction is a refreshing WAS in an otherwise bleak world of PIT.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Stop with the Speculation Screeds!

There is much in the way of myth generating in regard to the figures that rule over the DC sports landscape. It seems that certain players, coaches, front office types, and owners around here make statements without even saying them, plan to perform actions that are never performed, and have certain personality traits that have never been completely accounted for. While they attempt to keep their personalities/decisions/feelings about whatever completely under wraps, the dilligent sports reporters and analyzers attempt to unearth these completely secret aspects of their lives in order to compose screeds on how terrible these people actually are at their jobs. Now, we don't want to discount the intrepid work of these writing professionals. Their thankless job provides the conversations we all enjoy having more than the conversations about Susan Boyle. Yet it becomes frustrating when the unknown decisions, feelings, and actions of these figures receive what amounts to a complete and utter bashing despite those feelings not being correctly interpreted and subsequently rebuked once truth or results prove these bashers wrong.

For example: the Wizards recently had what amounted to an aberration of a season (meaning the whole roster was hurt, not just a key cog or two). They realized that with the opportunity to re-assess their needs, they could address the lingering concerns while simultaneously staying the course of their ultimate structure. So they hired Flip Saunders, the most decorated coach in the market, which, unless Phil Jackson was available, isn't exactly brimming with proven ability. Saunders ran teams similar to the Wiz to great success. Sure, he didn't win a title, but only four active coaches can claim that anyway. Maybe his lack of title would be more motivation to make this squad run on all of its cylinders.

Yet, there were echoes of doubt from the analyzers and writers of sport, all of whom were doubtful Flip Saunders would ever wrangle in that insane clubhouse killer Gilbert Arenas, whose zany ways would drive any coach batty. How did they determine that Gilbert would be a problem for any coach he didn't choose via flipping coins? Not through any statements from Gilbert, or any actual proof of his past issues with coaching, but through speculation. Naturally the union of Arenas and Saunders is already off to a fantastic start, with Flip commending Gilbert, and Gilbert lauding the new constructor of his plays. What happened to the impossible-to-coach Gilbert driving every coach insane? We don't think many coaches would hate having a guy who can drop thirty, dish out ten-plus dimes, generate free throws instantly, and hit massive game-winning shots, yet sports analyzer Michael Wilbon figured Saunders would not be able to generate results from this mercurial player, and as a result, the hiring was terrible, awful, laughable, dump-onnable, etc.

Yet yesterday's formal introduction of Flip went with tons of mutual appreciation from Saunders and his new point guard, who will obviously transform into a quicker, more dynamic Chauncy Billups under this new tutilage. Speculation was wrong there, which made the immediate hating of the hire, transcribed through panic-ensuing screeds problematic.

We have the same problem with the sports reporters' treatment of the Redskins' upcoming draft. Now, we aren't going to go all Larry Michael and ask for the heads of these NFL Sources that keep reporting the impending doom and gloom eminating from the unwanton desires of Dan Snyder. We just find it troubling that far-reaching results of player transactions have already been documented despite any sort of genuine happenstance of a Mark Sanchez selection. The skins haven't made any trades, haven't formally swapped any contracts, nor have they stitched together any uniforms with these new players' names on them. So why, again, does Mr. Wilbon tap out another screed about the Redskins' front office inabilities, when none of these crippling transactions have actually been made? Sure Wilbon crows about how idiotic the skins are for not trading down, like they should, yet he fails to mention that the skins did in fact trade down last year. They have traded down to acquire picks a number of times. Just because the skins wine and dine a potential prospect (the same way they wined and dined another potential prospect) doesn't mean that their decision has been curly-R stamped in burgundy and gold. Plenty of speculated skins selections have not happened in the past, why must we assume the ravenous desires of the owner will always be sated, even if no official statements of these desires are ever actually made? If the supposed loud overtures of desire for a rookie quarterback are never actually resulting in his selection, why should you, Denver, Colo ask Jason La Canfora (of all people) for a new team to root for? And what happened to the last quarterback Dan Snyder supposedly lusted after?

We just ask that you all try to save your imminent frustrations for actual football/basketball play. Or consider this extremeskins thread created by DCO homeboi da#1skinsfan. That is, if you are in the mood for more speculation.